Saturday 13 August 2022

Russia and leaking methane: the anecdote

By popular request ... (BTL here)

One of the few noteworthy outcomes from Cop26 in Glasgow was an international agreement to reduce methane leakage, CH4 being a far worse GHG than CO2, albeit much less persistent in the atmosphere.  Until then the gas had never received the attention it deserved, though if we get to the point where trapped methane from the Siberian permafrost starts escaping big-time, it certainly will.

There are many places in the western world - OK, in some states of the USA, to be precise - where regulatory standards for methane leakage and/or their enforcement, are essentially non-existent.  But the technology for tightening up on this is very straightforward, so it should be low-hanging fruit.  It's important for every reason under the sun, but not least that methane leakage from the natural gas system as a whole gives shale fracking a bad name:  if you've ever paid close attention to the notorious anti-fracking film GasLand, the genuine problems it highlights are not really to do with fracking per se, but rather the leaky infrastructure downstream of the drilling.   

Needless to say, (a) the COP26 agreement is being resisted by the oil & gas lobby in America; (b) Russia, China, India et al didn't sign up to it anyway; and (c) by far the greatest culprit is of course Gazprom and the entire Russian gas system, which is as leaky as all Hell (and there's a lot of leaking methane in Hell), on a scale hard to comprehend.  The World Bank has for 30 years been promoting schemes for doing something about it in Russia, whose own technology is not up to the job.

So to the story.  When I was in Moscow some years ago, one of the Russians I was on after-work-beer terms with told me this.  He was a mathematician working in the gas sector, and one day he was assigned to a small team that had been set the following challenge.  There were no gas meters to speak of in the entire Russian gas system, from one end to the other (domestic heat control was famously achieved by opening the windows in winter), but in order to satisfy certain World Bank requirements they needed to quantify gas leakage across the network.  They had some basic pressure readings etc at various points on the system, but they would need to develop some kind of modelling technique to derive an estimate of the methane lost.

Diligently, they worked on the task, and after some months came up with a complex formula for making the required estimate, in classic Russian fashion.  This they presented to the relevant Board member of Gazprom, who received their conclusions with interest.  He thanked them for their hard work, but told them that they'd overlooked something, namely the "environmental factor".  What is that? they queried.  Well, he said, you take the formula you've come up with, and multiply the whole thing by 0.1.  Why? they asked.

He leaned forward, and quietly but pointedly said: Because we couldn't be losing that much gas - could we, hmm?



dearieme said...

Years ago I had a boss who had just returned from a three year posting to Texas. He mentioned an explosion and fire he'd heard about. Some propane tank cars had come off the rails and the local fire brigade had been sent to spay water on them.

Then, boom!, dead firemen and spreading flames. The subsequent Inquiry had managed to identify the source of ignition. The firemen had been smoking.

Don Cox said...

Excellent Russian story.

There isn't really any hope for the human race, is there ?


Elby the Beserk said...

Keep it simple.

One recalls that in the early days of the space race, NASA spent a fortune on creating a brio that worked in no gravity.

The Russians sent their Cosmonauts up with pencils.

Bill Quango MP said...

The biro story is true. But misunderstood.

NASA spent no money designing a space biro.. it was a private individual.
NASA bought 400 of the pens. $6 each.
The Soviets bought a similar number as pencils were not suitable.

The fisher space pen can write on any surface in any attitude even underwater or on a greasy or wet surface. It’s the one in the Seinfeld episode.

The alternative of grease pens and felt pens were also tested and used. Until the space pen was adopted by everyone.

Anonymous said...

EtB. Sometimes more technology makes life easier. I heard years ago, I think in the Moscow 1980 Olympics, about Russian telecoms engineers working alongside western counterparts.
They were astounded by the concept of flux cored solder, and how much easier it was to use.

E-K said...

I'll be applying that 0.1 factor to everything.

I have the answer to their problem anyway.

Simply smear washing up liquid over the pipe network and count the bubbles.

E-K said...

I found a space pen in the street and still have it. Pride of place with various interesting items in my cocktail cabinent.

It's a marketing thing too. Like Omega and Bulova watches used in the moonshots. They have commanded decades of interest and high prices. I'm sure Nasa people were getting kickbacks.

E-K said...

Does anyone believe the story that an Omega packed up and an astronaught just happened to have a cheap Bulova as back-up ?

But that's the difference between the two economic models. A pencil is ideal in space and doesn't need to be used underwater. There is a massive market in the West for items that our superheros use and wear.

The more utilitarian Russians are still producing gas and we (the UK) aren't.

Until Ukraine Russian rockets were taking US space crew to the ISS.

Anonymous said...

"domestic heat control was famously achieved by opening the windows in winter"

Like a lost world of energy surplus, not that I approve of wasting the stuff.

It's a bit like that in urban bits of Iceland, where geothermal hot water pipes run under the streets and most houses are very warm at very little cost.

old git carlisle said...

It was reported that the unaccounted gas for some Northern Ireland town gas systems was 30%..

I can recall the installation of some pressure control systems in UK that were controlled using venting Wizard controllers .

Don Cox said...

"It was reported that the unaccounted gas for some Northern Ireland town gas systems was 30%.."

That was presumably unpaid for rather than unused ? Financial leakage rather than gas leakage.

One advantage of global warming is that there are huge crops of blackberries and apples this year. How does your garden grow?


AndrewZ said...

"A pencil is ideal in space"

No, a pen is much better. The point of a pencil might break, and sharpening it creates wood shavings. If these small bits of debris aren't caught, they will drift around the cabin and might get into the machinery or be inhaled by an astronaut.

andrew said...

Like Andrews says
And you really do not want graphite dust in a space station.

dearieme said...

Two of our apples are carrying good crops, a third was cut down in the winter, and a fourth is being a bit surly.

We have plenty of brambles - not the cultivar strains, but wild ones from the hedges, teased out to grow on trellises.

I'm lucky; my wife doesn't care for them so I get the lot.

old git carlisle said...


True - meters found bricked up behind walls but reticulation was in bad condition and some doubts about actual calorific values of gas as opposed to declared cv

AndrewZ said...

The methane anecdote could be taken as yet another example of the level of corruption in Russia. But I think it also illustrates a deeper problem.

For centuries - under Tsarism, communism, and the current gangsterism - the political culture of Russia has been defined by the centralisation of power in the hands of a tiny elite and unconditional obedience to authority. The elite treats the lives of the people as a resource to be exploited in any way that it finds expedient, and any signs of independent thought or initiative are suppressed.

Widespread corruption also normalises exploitation and cheating, and promotes a culture of cynicism in which it's every man for himself and only suckers try to do the right thing.

So, the political culture promotes the idea that individual lives don't matter and the broader culture of corruption promotes the idea that nobody has any moral obligations to anybody else. The result is an utterly nihilistic culture in which people don't care about greenhouse gasses, civilian casualties, military casualties on their own side, or anything beyond self-interest.

This means that Russia is actually more decadent than the West, but in a different way. We have the feckless self-indulgence of the rich and complacent, which can be cured by any shock to the system which destroys that complacency. They have the limitless cruelty that comes from the collapse of all social and moral obligations other than obedience to the powerful, and it's much harder to climb out of that pit.

DJK said...

A pencil is an absolute no-no in a clean environment, like a spacecraft. It creates dust and needs constant maintenance, so I've always doubted the Russian pencil anecdote.

Nice story about leakage in the Russian pipeline network, but I feel that the concept of acceptable and not-acceptable answers would apply in a lot of bureaucracies.

Anyway, it really begs the question of what percentage of Russian gas leaks to the atmosphere between extraction and the consumer in Germany, and what percentage must be siphoned off to run the compressors, etc. And how does this compare with shale gas from the US, transported to Europe in liquified form.

E-K said...

Couldn't they have one of those school desk type windy pencil sharpeners with a vacuum cleaner attached ?

Only joking. You got me, guys.

Bloke in Callao said...

Thank you Mr Drew. I wish you would compile a slim volume of your military and other adventures, though I dare say you don't have the time.


Bill Quango MP said...

You are not GOT, EK. They DID have a special sharpener.
The cosmonauts were not keen on the pencils. As stated by others, the graphite dust just from writing. Conducts electricity. The fire hazard from a wood pencil was considered negligible. When compared to the fire hazard from paper.

As for writing underwater, or on a wet surface, you recall that Apollo 13 film?
The sealed environment of a space capsule.
Condensation covering all surfaces of the command module and the lander.

I’m impressed you have that pen. Google the Seinfeld episode. ‘Space pen.’
It’s a good one, even without knowing the cast and characters.

DJK said...

OK, claims that wood pencils were used by both NASA and the Soviets from the start of the pace programme, likewise ballpoint pens. NASA also used propelling pencils, and the Soviets, grease pencils on plastic slates.

Nick Drew said...

DJK - what percentage must be siphoned off to run the compressors, etc. And how does this compare with shale gas from the US, transported to Europe in liquified form

the amounts of gas used for compressors and for LNG liquefaction are easily determined: these are pieces of kit that will definitely have meters

(also, a tiny amount may be used to warm the LNG at the re-gas terminal to bring it back into gaseous state. Or you can just let it expand at ambient temp.)

rwendland said...

Thankfully we have better technology now. Since 2018 ESA's Sentinel-5 Precursor satellite can spot methane from space. There is a nifty methane leak map at the link below. Looks like Turkmenistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh are big culprits lately, though being large maybe Russia and U.S. leak more over their entire area. Coal mines can sometimes leak a lot of methane, so not necessarily the gas industry.


DJK said...

>the amounts of gas used for compressors and for LNG liquefaction are easily determined: these are pieces of kit that will definitely have meters

Well, yes. Care to put a figure on it? I don't suppose much gas is needed for the compressors, 1%, 0.1%?

On leakage, what are we talking about. 10% or Russian gas leaking away?

On US shale, how much boils off and evaporates mid-Atlantic. 10%, 20%?

Without a number, statements like "the Russian gas network is as leaky as all Hell" are not terribly enlightening.

Nick Drew said...

On just a visual assessment of that map, Europe's ultra-extensive gas system shows what can be achieved with good technology + regulations + enforcement. The Eu area still includes significant indigenous production - important, because production sites are the most likely candidates for leaks; a purely downstream system wouldn't be expected to leak much

and of course many US states are a disgrace: they know exactly what to do, but simply choose not to

Qatar's lack of emissions is impressive, given the volume of production and processing. Modern western equipment, installed by Shell and, errr, Exxon (et al). They do know what to do.

Russia's methane losses are reduced for purposes of environmental methane escape per se, by the simple expedient of flaring them, which they do on an epic scale. Hence converting the issue back to CO2 ...

Anonymous said...

AndrewZ - "The elite treats the lives of the people as a resource to be exploited in any way that it finds expedient"

That sounds a great deal too much like the UK political and economic scene to me. And the elite in Russia so far have resisted the temptation "to dissolve the people and import another", which our elites have done.

This is one area where I feel ND is WAY too optimistic about our prospects and those of the US. There might be a deal of ruin in a nation, but demography is destiny.

Anonymous said...

Britons are evolving to be less well-educated and poorer because smart rich people are having fewer children, a new study has suggested.

Researchers have found that natural selection is favouring people with lower earnings and poorer education, with the next generation likely to be one or two percentage points lower in educational attainment than today.

Evolution also appears to be favouring people with a high risk of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), major depressive disorders and coronary artery disease, as well as younger parents and people with more sexual partners.

Prof David Hugh-Jones, lead researcher from University of East Anglia’s School of Economics, said: “Darwin’s theory of evolution stated that all species develop through the natural selection of small, inherited variations that increase the individual's ability to compete, survive and reproduce.

“We wanted to find out more about which characteristics are selected for and against in contemporary humans, living in the UK.”

The team looked at data from more than 300,000 people in the UK, taken from the UK Biobank - a long-term project investigating the contributions of genetic predisposition and environmental exposure to the development of disease.

Each participant is given a polygenic score – an estimate of their genetic liability that roughly predicts a person’s health, education, lifestyle and personality.

They then mapped the score to their number of siblings and children over two generations to see how the populations are changing over time.

They found that scores correlating with lower earnings and education were linked to having more children, meaning those people were being selected from an evolutionary perspective.

In contrast, scores that correlated with higher earnings and education were linked to having fewer children, meaning that they are being selected against.

Researchers said the findings corresponded to the economic theory of fertility, which was developed more than 60 years ago and which found genes linked to high earnings predicted fewer children, because children brought a bigger relative loss of wages.

Anonymous said...

AndrewZ - good take on Russian society.
Anon @ 8:45am - Mike Judge's idiocracy - possibly the most plausible view of the future I have ever seen.
The fact is that 'having children' is actually quite a good 'job' if you are an uneducated woman. Free housing, no council tax. If you can do 16 hours a week that is the sweet spot for benefits v work - you can have maybe £800 a month ex-housing costs to do with as you wish. It's not too bad.

old git carlisle said...

Having spent a week on light duties after a Aortic Valve implementation courtesy of a cow .I read I read highly informative book giving background to Russian political development written in 2006 but still relevant
A Brief History of the cold war by Colonel John Hughes published by Constable and Robinson wrirren by – Wilson a military historian.

rwendland said...

DJK> Care to put a figure on it? I don't suppose much gas is needed for the compressors, 1%, 0.1%?

The somewhat dated article below says that the entire Russian Unified Gas Supply System, with very long routes, uses 10%: "an estimated 10% of total Russian gas consumption goes to power these [246 compressor stations]". I'd guess not much different from LNG conversion+shipping costs, which in 2021 Russia launched a large programme to expand.

Ideally we want a consumption figure per 1000km flow, for a better idea, but I've not come across one.

(selecting Firefox reader mode overcomes the registration/login requirement)

Nick Drew said...

Without a number, statements like "the Russian gas network is as leaky as all Hell" are not terribly enlightening

this is a blog, not a doctoral thesis!

rwendland said...

... another 10% estimate is in a 2000 academic paper on USSR/FSU methane emissions, but only about 5% is attributable to pipeline pumping.

It reminds us this 10% includes losses and compressors at the very large gas storage facilities largely there to support winter sales to Europe while at the same time supplying Russia and FSU.

Table 6 summarises methane emissions (losses), which it reckons about 3% (various estimates 1.2% to 4.0%) from the long distance "transportation segment", which is pipelines + storage.

So that leaves 7% to power the compressors, so maybe 2% for storage compressors and 5% to power pipeline compressors. But is is all rather complex, with many confounding factors, so this doesn't seem at all certain to me.

Anonymous said...

Interesting take on Russian military strategy/tactics, published in, of all places, the US Marine Corps Gazette.

Remember how Russia tried to take Kiev, failed and we all had a good laugh at the people who said "it was a feint to allow the Russians to get all their ducks in a row in Donbass"?

Well this retired general says the same! He seems to think Russia has done rather well.

lilith said...

It's the vegans producing all the methane from the plants rotting in their colons. I'm a never a species appropriate diet and save the planet!

Nick Drew said...

Anon @ 9:29

(1) It's very interesting indeed (incidentally, I agree on the relative restraint on choice of bombardment targets shown by Russia in the early weeks - indeed I wrote about it here at the time)

... and Van Riper is obviously a fine strategist. But that doesn't mean he's right on this.

If the attack on Kiev was a feint, it wasn't just pawns that were sacrificed: Putin committed, and lost, the entirety of his ready-to-go airborne forces. That's one helluva feint.

The account suggests the move on Kiev was a 'war of manoeuvre' I beg to differ - we all saw clearly that it wasn't. By getting stuck in convoys north of Kiev for several weeks, on major roads, the coordinates of which are known to within 2 centimetres, he allowed wholesale destruction of vast columns of troops and equipment, simply rolled up by ambush, artillery and air strikes. Who does something as crass as that by way of a feint? Even in WW1, this was known to be a capital error, to be avoided by any means possible. (If they'd just deployed to a minimal degree off-road - and we're talking cross-country military kit here, in an army supposedly attacking with a Plan ... and at a time of it's own choosing(?) - they'd have saved themselves a bunch.)

And all this to delay Ukr forces deploying to the East? Show me the fruits of that. Kherson was indeed taken - from Crimea - in a lightning move. Mariupol took them 3 months. The big Donbas towns even longer. The Kiev 'feint' was over in a few weeks.

The butcher's bill for the 'Kiev feint' was surely unanticipated at best. At worst it was pointless. I'd say it was a genuine attempt at a coup de main, as the Russians had managed successfully (by the skin of their teeth) in Kabul all those years ago. Then re-framed when its spearpoint was clearly blunted - well, torn off - and the shaft of the spear stuck firmly in the tarmac, to be smashed into pieces. The only creditable aspect was the moderately decisive cutting of losses.

I continue to suggest that, properly construed, the correct strategic goal was the Kherson oblast as a prelude to Odessa plus the full Azov coastline. They got across the river alright, but ground to a halt. As I said many weeks ago, the logical thing is to give up on Odessa and dig in at Kherson - and give it a rest in Donbas ... (to part 2)

Nick Drew said...

(2) The whole Donbas thing has been, and still is, purely political. That can serve strategic purposes too, of course, but is very costly indeed. It seems possible that the sheer pain of the attempt to capture both oblasts - still ongoing, still looking like requiring a very long-term effort - will be the cause of inability to get such contract soldiers that they managed to lure into the rag-tag ranks, to return to the fray at the end of their contracts.

Which means (until Putin is prepared to mobilise formally) repeating cycles of sweeping up the low-life of the farthest-flung corners of the Russian empire into ad hoc, ill-trained, morale-free cannon-fodder units, to huddle behind immense artillery barrages and inch forward one yard per week over scorched earth, being all the while harassed by accurate long-range artillery. Then, three months later, the survivors all piss off back whence they came, vowing never to return - and probably telling all their mates it's a mugs game, however much blood-money their old mum gets if they don't make it back.

Obviously, Putin gets to turn the screws on the West when winter comes; and if he wants the whole of the Donbas as one pile of smoking (and possibly radioactive) rubble, well, as we've always said from Day 1, who's to stop him? But don't tell us he always foresaw all this, feints and all (!) as a three-year campaign of utter destruction, and the full severing of Russia from the mainstream commerce of the planet, left only to play whatever sanctions-busting games he can with whomever can screw him for the biggest discounts and fattest premiums. Oh, and personally, as an object of Xi's utter contempt.

Bill Quango MP said...

My favourite Ukraine war analyst.

He Kiev was a feint myth start around 30.00

Nick Drew said...

Bill, that is just superb - greatly recommended

(Everyone will now imagine that's where I get my stuff! ... but honestly, amongst the welter of great material available online I've never seen that chap before - we just seem to agree quite a lot

as circumstantial evidence in my defence: I was saying the same many weeks before that podcast was delivered)

Matt said...

An comment on the reports that the Rough B Offshore Installation will be brought back into use? Seems the government might cave to the subsidy demands in the face of the energy crisis.

Nick Drew said...

Post to follow in the next day or so, Matt

Anonymous said...

Thanks, ND - I only asked!

I seem to recall Russia/SU started their last big war badly, too. And Chechnya Mk1 was a nadir for them.

Watching Bakhmut, the centre is still amazingly peaceful. Dog walkers, kids on bikes, people feeding birds. Progress there by DPR/RU is not speedy. Apparently 20 houses damaged yesterday outside the centre - not exactly the Guernica or Falluja-like scenes being reported.

Anonymous said...

It's chucking it down in Donetsk, they seem to have all our rain. Big thunderstorms too, non-military ones.

Anonymous said...

There's a camera on a store in Tumanyana St, Donetsk. People (including the odd soldier) come and go. But nearly every day a thin woman in the same flowery dress turns up and just stands outside, doesn't speak to people, stays for an hour or so.

Not young, dark hair thinning at the parting.

She's like the French Lieutenants Woman. What can her story be?

E-K said...

The refills are a shocking price for the space pens, so mine is empty at the moment.

E-K said...

£28.50 for the whole pen on Amazon, BQ.

Gawan !!! You know you want one.

(very nice they are too.)

E-K said...

Anonymous - What's stranger ? The woman in Donetsk doing this ? Or you watching her do it !!!

E-K said...

ND @ 10.23

So large parts of Ukraine reduced to radioactive rubble. A generation of young men missing (Same too for the Russians.)

Hardships as not seen this side of WW2 for the West - the economic and political destabilisation of our nations.

The handing of Russian assets and gold to China.

Way to go Nato !

Don Cox said...

The purpose of NATO is to defend Europe from Russian imperialism. Putin's aim is to restore the Russian empire to what it was in 1953. I don't think any of the countries that were ruled by Russia in 1953 want to return to that condition.

Russia would be a great country if it were not ruled by Tsars and their Secret Police.

Don Cox

Anonymous said...

Don Cox - NATO existed because the Soviet Union did. It should have been disbanded when the SU went.

Russia likes the idea of American missiles in the Donbass (pointed at Moscow) as much as we would like to see Chinese missiles in Dumfries and Galloway pointed at London.

Anonymous said...

And Russia would NOT be a great country with a different ruling elite. It tried unrestricted capitalism in the Yeltsin years and life expectancy collapsed.

But its people have some good qualities. Among which is great courage and endurance.

This isn't a personal dig - I was one of the many naive fools who believed what we were told in 2003, that with a different ruler than Saddam, Iraq would become a modern democratic state. They fooled me once ...

E-K said...


So why did Putin wait until NATO reached Ukraine to launch his dastardly plan ?

I'd say that his decrepit conventional military forces - broken by asymmetric tactics attest to the fact that he had no desire for European domination.

But if your theory makes think it was worth it and makes you feel better about becoming piss poor...

And now we are back to the '80s and that ominous feeling that The Bomb could drop at any moment.

Way to go NATO !

E-K said...

Anon @ 8.49

Reverse Darwinism is in play. Caused entirely by welfarism.

Mine is a family of two halves. My brother's half and mine.

The professionals on my side of the family are still childless at age 24. The chavs on the other side have been knocking out kids to males anon since age 14 and yes... ADHD features in the generous welfare payments. The lad got his first pregnant aged 14, then her mother two years later and then knocked out two more with the one he's living with now (both bairns needing state support because of congenital conditions from the mother that were known about) and he's yet to pay tax despite being in his thirties - thick has mince, the lot of them.

Brother's side all have proper houses and special credit cards to buy white goods, free driving lessons and cars...

My side (doctor and research chemist) are both sharing houses with 8 other doctors and chemists, a single room each with shared lounge and kitchen/ bathroom.... no sign of that situation changing anytime soon.

The nation is committing cultural suicide.

Economically it really does feel like we all made a huge,bankrupting, mistake our side of the family. That the State deliberately punishes the responsible and lavishes on the feckless... we now hear of fuel bill assistance being given to them which will only close the gap further.

Brother's family have cost the state literally millions. I mean MILLIONS - including the search for his body after he decided to skulk off into the night with a bottle of sleeping pills. They have contributed NOTHING and drained a lot out of the system.

BlokeInBrum said...

I feel your pain E-K.

I remember when our kids were young and both me and the missus were working all hours trying to pay crippling nursery fees (so we could go out and work!).

Then the government offered free nursery places - up to 30 hours a week if I recall.

Brilliant I thought, until it dawned that all the local spots were taken by our feckless, non-working neighbours. We got offered 5 hours a week.

It seems that the state actively panders to the useless, the feckless and the criminal.

I know personally many, many cases of people swindling thousands from benefits, or for example, an ex-colleague bringing his father over from India for heart surgery on the NHS, costing tens if not hundred of thousands of pounds.

We are an entirely stupid people for allowing so much of this type of thing to go on for so long.

Maybe a Winter or two of real hardship is whats needed to shake off a few of these parasites, before it's too late.

Sadly, I think there are too many people who are hooked on the drug of 'free' handouts, as well as all of those in the middle classes occupying a legion of well paying but utterly worthless non-jobs. (Diversity Coordinator in an NHS trust @ £65,000 pa ? Yes I'm talking about you!)

We need Less Government in our Lives, and more personal responsibility. Sadly, our Conservative Government is as bad, if not worse than the Labour Party and the Liberals in this respect, and I'm not sure what can be done about it. I certainly don't believe that, at this point, voting is going to get us out of this mess.

Don Cox said...

"I was one of the many naive fools who believed what we were told in 2003, that with a different ruler than Saddam, Iraq would become a modern democratic state. "

A democratic state has an elected government which can be voted out. That's quite different from a dictator who has no intention of ever leaving power, like Saddam or Putin or Khameini.

The phrase "a different ruler" implies simply another dictator or tyrant. We had many centuries of unelected rulers in England before slowly learning how to do democracy. Democracy is difficult and demands tolerance of those who you disagree with, as on this blog.

A good test of democracy is whether jokes and cartoons aimed at the current head of the government are legal.


E-K said...

You can tell who has the real power.

They are the ones you CANNOT make cartoons about.

I'll leave it there.

Caeser Hēméra said...

@EK, you're both right and wrong on Ukraine and NATO.

Russians have always looked upon Ukrainian independence as a joke, and the Ukrainians being the butt of jokes not dissimilar to the Irish used to be in the UK. They've also always treated them horribly, hence why many initially welcomed the Nazis as a relief from the Russians, at least until they realised they'd just exchanged the frying pan for the fire.

The fear then, is less about military security, it's far more base than that, the prospect of Ukraine moving further into the western sphere of influence turns the joke of Ukrainian independence into concrete fact, and that needles the Russian identity.

As for NATOs move eastwards, let us not forget that is in *response* to Russia. When the Visegrad group wanted to join NATO, they were given a very lukewarm reception as no one in NATO was particularly wanting to expend the cost and effort of integrating former Soviet states.

Move forward several years, and in the aftermath of Transnistrian, Abkhazian, and the first Chechen wars and they came forward again pointing out that wether it was an Empire, a Union or a federation, the Bear was always going to Bear and NATO moved eastwards accordingly - although they always kept to the letter of the agreement that, post German unification, they would not move eastwards _in Germany._

In many ways Russia combines the worst aspects of the French (arrogant attitude to former colonies), us Brits (we have a bit of a superiority complex at heart) and the Americans (a belief in exceptionalism) and none of the better angels we/those have to moderate them, mostly due to the history and geography of the place.

Ukraine is about if the West is still up for standing up to bullies, or if we've truly become as lazy and complacent as many fear (and Putin and Xi thought.)

Either way, even if Ukraine falls, Russia has endangered itself to the point it's going to be unable to repeat such actions for many, many years.

Anonymous said...

"Ukraine is about if the West is still up for standing up to bullies"


From Tibet 1953, via Turkey in Northern Cyprus in the 70s (still there) to Yemen now, I can think of dozens of times a blind eye has been turned.

The UK literally can't defend its own borders, but is prepared to impoverish its own people to (ineffectually) defend Ukraine's.

Don Cox said...

Britain isn't defending Ukraine. We're giving the Ukrainians a load of old weapons that have reached the end of their 20-year lifespan and are due for replacement. The Ukrainians are defending themselves, as best as they can. We aren't defending them (apart from a few volunteers who are not really being encouraged).


Anonymous said...

We are literally giving Ukraine signals and targeting intelligence which is killing Russian and DPR/LPR troops, sending weapons, we are training 20,000 troops just outside Manchester, we are flying spyplanes over the Black Sea and the Kola Pensinsula.

We are heavily involved.

lilith said...

Yes, we are heavily involved. Not sure if we have any ammunition left after helping out Ukraine. And Boris gave the Jihadis millions in "aid" (Syria) etc in order to destroy a nation that was beginning to boom with global tourism and where half the population was under 15 years of age.

E-K said...

Caesar Hemera

Was Putin going to launch a blitzkreig across Europe or not ? I posit not.

He warned Nato and the EU that Ukraine must remain neutral and the prospect of it joining either organisation would be a red line crossed.

For that simple reason and the constant goading by the West (and that we'd been crippled by lockdown) he invaded.

So Ukraine is turned to rubble and we are made piss poor.

Anonymous said...

be fair, lilith. Syria was much more of a Cameron operation, as was Libya. Those dead kids at the Ariana Grande concerts and the dead pensioners on Tunisian beaches are Cameron's big foreign policy wins.

Plus the fact that Libya, one of the more functional countries in that neck of the woods, became and remains a shambles, same for Syria.

Anonymous said...

Don Cox may be right about "our side" emptying their old armouries, apparently a missile fired at the NPP nuclear complex (originally claimed as a Brimstone) is an ancient AGM - 114 Hellfire missile from perhaps the 90s or even earlier. They seem to think it came from Swedish stocks. Guidance is analogue, not digital - it's that old.

"Photos of the electronics have been published on Telegram. The two PCBs shown represents 1970s technology: standard 16-pin Schottky integrated circuits, discrete through-hole resistors. Two of the ICs are labeled AM26S02/BEA – a dual monostable multivibrator made by Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) in the 1970s."

Sobers said...

"A democratic state has an elected government which can be voted out. That's quite different from a dictator who has no intention of ever leaving power, like Saddam or Putin or Khameini."

That rules out the West as democracies then, as they are all ruled by the permanent state sector, the colour of rosette on the politicians may change but all the people with the power stay exactly in the same place........if you can tell me how I could have voted Chris Whitty out, or Neil Ferguson, or the head of the BBC, I'm all ears.

Anonymous said...

Under Blair we had mass immigration and Middle East war. Under Cameron we has mass immigration and Middle East plus North African war. Brexit came and Boris - we have mass immigration, I believe we are still in Syria, and we are stoking a European and maybe the next (and last) world war.

Anonymous said...

"He warned Nato and the EU that Ukraine must remain neutral and the prospect of it joining either organisation would be a red line crossed."

Er. Well. Ukraine has been admitted to neither NATO nor the EU. That didn't seem to stop him, did it? I suppose he just KNEW we were really going to do it in March, so he had to move really quickly or it would be too late? Give it a rest EK.

Anyhow, which nation gets to decide its sovereign neighbours can't join an economic bloc, on pain of actual warfare?[Note] Suppose Putin decides NATO must withdraw from the Baltics and thats a red line too?

[Note] Well of course there is the EU/Ireland/NI thing. But thats not actual warfare (not quite). And its a bloody outrage too. Both cases tell us the same thing: a big bully is frightened that a smaller country might do really well on its own. And what does that tell us about the bully? That it should of course be appeased? P*** off.

E-K said...,met%20from%20France%20and%20Germany.

Nato's relations and ideas regards Ukraine, preceding the invasion. Overtures were being made to Ukraine to join. Putin was provoked.

America decided that Cuba couldn't join the Soviet bloc in 1962.

Perhaps one of our resident experts could tell us. Was Putin ever capable invading Nato and EU nations ? Because that is what our physical support of Ukraine and the prolonging of the war is based on, the argument that "We're next."

A wrecked country. Tens if not hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians dead. A devastated Germany and EU and devastated UK economy.

Worth it ?

Caeser Hēméra said...

@EK, that's a strawman. May as well ask if Hitler had plans to invade Mars.

Putin has repeatedly advertised his desire to expand borders in speeches and papers he's written. He has frequently rewritten history to suit his Russian ethno-nationalist narrative and provide a justification for future actions.

Was he going to march over Europe? No. Was he always going to invade the rest of Ukraine at some point? Yes.

Was he going to take action against the Baltics? I'd argue that'd depend on responses to earlier invasions. Had we simply let him roll through Ukraine, that would increase the odds of him having a try, gambling NATO would allow the loss of some territory rather than risk a direct conflict.

It's an old Soviet doctrine about nibbling NATO to death.

So, Ukraine is the line in the sand. If we can avoid direct conflict with Russia this time, it isn't unreasonable - based on Putin's very own words and actions - to suggest it will save us having to do so at some point in the future.

You can argue we're not much better, given the antics of the West over the decades, but "not much better" is still better. And unlike Russia, we've many more tools to keep going in that direction.

Anonymous said...

Cuba did join the Soviet bloc.

E-K said...

... after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion undertaken by the CIA with Kennedy's approval.

Anonymous said...

OK, I'll keep asking - what if in 20 years an independent Scotland decides to put Chinese missiles in Dumfries, and a Chinese naval base at Holy Loch?

Caeasar - you never ever give quotes or chapter and verse for Putin's expansionism , you just repeat neocon talking points.

The interesting thing is that a lot of Donbass people all think Russia should have moved in 2014 when a lot less bloodshed would have occurred.

Why didn't the UK/US support Donbass independence as they did Kosovar independence - to the point of bombing Belgrade?

Indeed, why didn't we bomb Turkey when she invaded Cyprus?

Nick Drew said...

I can tell you that "we" took Turkey to one side and read its fortune to it

(1974 is a long time ago - but I'm that old, and was in the Army at the time)

speaking of chapter and verse, maybe you have evidence for "a lot of Donbass people all think Russia should have moved in 2014"

Caeser Hēméra said...

@Anon 9.01 - If you want me to do your research for you, may day rate is £1k.

Being a helpful soul though, you can start with his wittering via the Kremlin itself ( where he denies Ukraine is a real state. You can also take a look at his speeches during the start of his three day (assuming a Venusian day here) police action, and back in 2014 when Crimea was annexed.

From the Kremlin archives you should also be able to fish out a paper by Putin back in 2020 about WW2 which was *very* much about the here and now, which, along with the changes the Russian Federation's constitution to define it as the successor to the USSR, brings the Baltics into what he regards as Russian areas of control as per the Helsinki Accords.

I also recommend reading some of Kamil Galeev's posts on Twitter, as well as translations of Russian media.

Now, I do not profess to be an expert, and these are from news articles, I'm pretty sure some heavy duty searching would bring quite a bit back.

Anonymous said...

"I can tell you that "we" took Turkey to one side and read its fortune to it"

Which is why they still occupy North Cyprus to this day? (As well as a decent chunk of Syria now - it obviously didn't put them off)

vis a vis the people who wanted Russia to move in 2014 - there were many interviews with "stay-behinds"* in places like Severodonetsk saying "you won't leave us again, will you?"

* admittedly those who didn't head west were obviously pro-Russian. But then a couple of million "Ukrainians" headed for Russia when the fighting began in 2014-5.

I think the wise words of the great Glubb Pasha apply not only to the Soviet, but to the British empires.

"While the empire is enjoying its High Noon of prosperity, all these people are proud and glad to be imperial citizens. But when decline sets in, it is extraordinary how the memory of ancient wars, perhaps centuries before, is suddenly revived, and local or provincial movements appear demanding secession or independence. Some day this phenomenon will doubtless appear in the now apparently monolithic and authoritarian Soviet empire. It is amazing for how long such provincial sentiments can survive."

E-K said...

Caesar Hemera

Was it that Ukraine really wanted to join Nato and the EU or was it that Nato and the EU pushed up to her border and then dangled carrots ?

Would Putin have invaded or occupied in any other way without our expansionism and his many warnings against it ?

Ukraine is being turned to rubble in the extension of the war which started with a bloody US instigated putsch in 2014.

All evidence is that the march of missile installations was West to East.

Caeser Hēméra said...


Would Putin have invaded/occupied Ukraine without expansionism? Impossible to state with certainty, but as long as Ukraine departed from being a Russian satellite state, it would be most likely due the Russian view of the Ukrainians.

And take a look at how Belarus is treated whenever it tries to look west - the act of trying to have its dairy exports certified for sale in the EU led to brutal economic sanctions by Russia. Russia does not enjoy their old dominions having sovereignty.

And why has NATO marched east again? In response to Russia. As I pointed out earlier, when the Visegrad group requested NATO membership initially, no one was interested. It was Russia which changed that.

As for Euromaiden purely being US actions? Yeah, just like Brexit was a big Russian plan? The US certainly meddled, and was wrong to do so, but it was mostly meetings, advice and handing out cookies, but there was a pre-existing movement there that was egged on rather than set up from scratch.

Ukraine _was_ split between those looking east and those looking west, although Putin seems to have resolved that rather comprehensively towards looking west.

And as Ukraine got wealthier, they'd have looked more to the west anyway. Evidence? Where do the wealthy Russians send their families? To the west. Have their kids educated? In the west.

Putin and his ilk would never stand for that, so some kind of conflict was inevitable, how it might have materialised in all the "coulda, shoulda, woulda" counterfactuals is anyones guess though.